Educational attainment declines the further you move away from the city contributing to high youth unemployment and long term health problems. Only 38 percent of Aboriginal kids start and complete Year 12 in very remote towns in Australia, compared to an 85 per cent in Major Cities.
At community consultations in Galariinbaraay/Collarenebri, the community came together to discuss why kids were not going on to complete Year 12. One of the answers was the lack of local training opportunities for kids.
"For many remote and Aboriginal kids, the idea of planning for a career in an environment that you have never experienced is daunting, particularly if you need to move a long way from home and country to undertake that training. Its a big leap in the dark that many kids are just not confident to take" said Mark Burdack, CEO of the Healthy Communities Foundation Australia.
The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia worked with the Community Working Party and Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly to apply for a grant from NSW Aboriginal Affairs to set up a Health Careers and Training Centre at the Collarenbri Medical Centre run by the Foundation.
Funding for a new purpose-built facility, including study room, kitchen, high speed broadband and computers, was provided by the Murray Darling Basin Authority.
Commencing in 2024, the program will employ a local coordinator to run a program targeting kids going into Years 10 to 12 at the Collarenebri Central School to encourage them to enrol in TVET Programs offered in collaboration with NSW TAFE.
Students who enrol in the TVET Program will get access to an air conditioned study room at the Medical Centre, a computer and 24/7 tutoring support provided by Studiosity.
Every week, students will attend 2 clinical skills and experience workshops that will involve learning health skills on manikins, attending a tutorial on health and anatomy by an expert, and shadowing nursing and Aboriginal Health Worker staff in their day-to-day work.
The program aims to encourage more local Aboriginal students to study TVET at school, backed up with work integrated learning, to build their confidence to go on to further study at TAFE or University.
"We have been talking with a number of universities interested in providing pathways for graduates from this program which is really exciting" said Mr Burdack.
Carl Mason, Chair of the Galariinbaraay Community Working Party of the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly said: "This was a problem identified by the community as a big barrier for local kids.
"The community talked and decided we needed to grow local training capacity. Rural, remote and Aboriginal communities know what the problems are. They also have pretty good ideas about how to solve them. But it's pretty rare for policy makers to come out and really listen to our mob.
"In the two years or so working with the Foundation they really listens to us. If they don't think a community idea will work they tell us their view, but its always our decision what to do and they back us with their technical skills.
"Since working with the Foundation we are now starting to see real change in our community. We now have 10 people working on community projects in town with grants and funds the Foundation helped us to secure. We are starting to see activity return to the Main Street with more people coming into town and businesses expanding or opening.
"This is the model everyone in rural and remote communities should be using because locals know the answers. We need organisations like the Foundation to help us to do the stuff we don't know how to do, and teach us how it is done, rather than just telling us what's good for us" said Mr Mason.